I do have a lot of expectations on me. Growing up I had a lot of responsibility, both for myself and my family, and now, apparently, I have it over a whole generation of young indigenous women or queer women.
It happened overnight, and it felt like ‘oh, ok, right, this is happening!’ I have to really sit in this and work out how I feel about it, and acknowledge the responsibilities to others while also knowing I have a responsibility to myself, to live my own life. I will make mistakes, and crash and burn, just like I will overcome challenges, and if you’re along for the ride you will see all of that.
I know I need to have boundaries, though, which can be tricky as I am someone who is always keen to have good conversations and build relationships. I pretty much treat social media the same way I do my real life, and am quite hands on with comments and often open up my DMs, but then you remember the person you’re speaking with is actually a stranger to you, as you are to them. It can be exhausting ‘just being yourself’, while also remembering that it’s best to not always be completely accessible.
When I first did Bachie in 2018, I was so green and naïve when it came to anything to do with being on TV or social media so I had to adapt quickly.
I will always be grateful for the platform I have now, and for the people who follow me, but having this sort of profile has two sides to it. On one hand, it can be liberating to live a somewhat public life without apology, and to be part of what has become a real community that feels very supportive and inclusive. Then, on the other hand, you can feel as though people are constantly watching and critiquing you, and that everyone has an opinion on your life and what you do. So you have to learn to balance the two.
I could feel I was getting complacent in Perth. It’s a very chilled lifestyle there and I think that can make it easy to enjoy your day to day and not think so much about the bigger picture. I would wake up, go for a swim and go to work… I mean, that’s a bloody good life! But I wanted to make sure I was really doing what I wanted to be doing. I decided to move in March 2021, and pretty much packed up and went, but then was only here for about five minutes before I signed on in May to do Bachie. I was off doing that for six months, and finally moved back to Melbourne in November. I love it here, and feel so blessed to be here. They had such a tough lockdown, and I missed all of that, but even though I didn’t go through that, it has given me an extra level of appreciation for the city and what its people have been through.
This trip back to WA in May is the first time I have been back since November. The borders being closed has made living so far away really difficult. Even still, making the move has been worthwhile, and it has made me appreciate my home and my family so much. I think COVID has taught us all to have more love and appreciation. Things are not so accessible anymore, so we have to adapt. I have a big family and they are spread out all over WA, so it’s hard to see everyone when I am home, but it does fill my cup up. Seeing my nephews especially… I am such a little mum with them. I very much want to adopt and foster. I grew up constantly having a kid on my hip, and lots of kids around, brothers and cousins. We had our mum, so I guess I filled almost that dad role for everyone, making sure they were up and going to school. When we all got older and separated, I missed that community. Now, having nephews, I get to pull them close and see that they had the good things I had growing up, which makes me feel so lucky.
My mum and nan died within one month of each other, when I was 11. Up until that time, I was very much an outside kid, always swimming, always in the bush, using my imagination, and I played a lot of sport. So I do have good childhood memories, and feel glad that I still love all the things I enjoyed doing then.
Then when I turned 11 there was this huge, pivotal change in my life, and I moved from the country to the city. I was a quiet achiever, not extroverted; I put my head down and got done what I needed to get done. I moved out by myself at 15, and I don’t think I knew the word ‘resilient’ then, but I suppose I was. I think I have always been pretty self-aware, and was an intuitive kid in touch with my own emotions. I studied psychology in 2020, just before Bachie. They always say people who do psych want to figure themselves out, don’t they? I think for me, experiencing so much trauma so young, and being witness to so many difficult things growing up, I was keen to understand more about myself, as well as about my trauma, and then also to begin healing.
The previous seasons had been so different to my season. Not to make out that mine was better in any way, but mine had a lot riding on it, a lot of weight around representation. We wanted to accomplish a lot, and to do that, I had to be in the driver’s seat. I believe in previous seasons, people were kind of passengers, along for the ride of what the production team were creating. The majority of production had known me since 2018, so they were so happy for me to have this moment, and none of us took it lightly. We all wanted to show the viewers a lot of different things they maybe hadn’t seen before. Osher was a big part of that as well. I have such respect for him and his family, and I know that respect goes both ways. He was a huge part of making me feel comfortable, and really tooting my horn when I needed it.
An acknowledgement of country is something anyone can do, to pay respect to the traditional owners of land you are on, but a welcome to country is done by an elder or a very respected member of the community of the traditional owners. I felt so welcomed to not my country by these uncles, and knew that the space was somewhere I could really think of as home, and to be able to share that with viewers was incredible.
I had to be welcomed to my home by my housemates here in Melbourne; I want to know where I am living is a comfortable environment, and I don’t want to be anywhere I don’t feel welcomed. My housemates and I even sage when we have had bad energy in our house! Which is a similar essence to my cultural smoking protocols, really. When I moved into the Bachie mansion for filming, the uncles who welcomed me also smoked out the house, to make sure it was a culturally safe place for me to do what I had to do. I didn’t know they’d be doing it, and it was so beautiful. (I actually have a video of them in the house, joking that they were moving in and coming on the show as my bachelors!)
I had so much optimism in my heart about finding the love of my life. I really hoped for it. At the same time, I was feeling the weight of it being ‘a show’ and entertainment, and also everything I represented being the first queer person and First Nations person to be The Bachelorette. I kept having to code switch, so flicking between Brooke’s brain and Brooke’s heart, but then clicking into managerial producer mode, and also making sure I was doing my due diligence. I was so keen to do everything I could to translate everything I was feeling, and all of that emotion was encapsulated in the welcome, which was a really incredible moment. I feel so lucky that viewers got to see that as part of my culture and part of a beautiful season. As much as my relationship didn’t work out, the whole season was a rewarding experience, and I have no regrets. I feel so proud of what we were able to achieve.
I am so lucky to have her in my circle – my group of friends is small, but their love is big. She is a powerhouse and a huge feminist.
I’ve been told a lot that this TV moment helped people acknowledge their privilege, and it reminded us all that a lot of Aboriginal cultural and history is simply not taught. It’s first or second nature for us, but not for typical white Australians. In school we are taught about the first fleet, not our story. Not our truth.
I was so proud of Amy for how strong and how direct she was. She didn’t back down when this man and this woman were saying they didn’t know the names of my mob or whose land we were on. She didn’t say ‘oh, that’s okay’, she said, ‘no, you need to know’. Knowing whose land you’re on might seem simple, but whether you know or not speaks volumes. Both of these people she was asking already knew me from being on past Bachie seasons, and by this stage they were my top two. So if they had been interested to find out more about me, they could have Googled it… I mean, it’s right there in my Instagram bio! I was disappointed that there was this “I knew her before” attitude, implying we were close, but that neither of them necessarily knew about the things that matter to me most – about my culture, family and community. It taught me that that there needs to be more allyship, so that we all know whose land we’re on, and we know who we’re in front of. When you are making connections with Aboriginal people, this is basic respect. Knowing these simple things helps to make us feel very comfortable in the spaces in which we are working and living.
People think I have a negative view of the franchise, but I have always loved it. I think for a while there it got stale, and tried to be something it wasn’t. Now that we are all addicted to reality TV, shows are stepping outside of reality, and going for drama, scandal and dysfunctional relationships, and that’s not what Bachie is about. I think it has to settle into its skin and know what it’s about. We viewers still love the happy ending!
I’d really like to see the show progress by allowing more time to be spent on people getting to know each other. That allows for the love story to develop, but also for more honest depictions of who each person is. I felt like production had my back, so I could settle in and feel comfortable, but I know a lot of the girls are so concerned about being villainised. I’d be keen to see real people and real-life discussions, and for it to be more progressive and more modern. We don’t need the same backdrops and the candelabras and the fancy wallpaper. And speaking of… now for the next season, the mansion isn’t even going to be the mansion, as the production is moving to the Gold Coast! I have been saying to them for years that they needed to change it up, so I am so excited. They need to get into the warm weather – it will make production’s lives easier, the contestants won’t be freezing in cocktail dresses till the early hours of the morning, and it will shift the energy and look of the whole show. Plus, you can’t discount the social and emotional wellbeing of everyone involved – when the sun’s out, everyone’s happier!
Mind you, while I was coming into myself, I never fully identified with the title bisexual. I always introduced myself like ‘I’m Brooke’, and maybe I was also dating a woman or man, but I never really introduced myself as ‘I’m Brooke, I’m bisexual’! Having to come to terms with that title for the show was a lot, especially in a short period of time. It felt as though this identity was put on me immediately. I am not saying I am ashamed in any way. I am saying I am not very into labels and categorising.
I knew what was coming, and luckily, I have thick skin and could deal with the commentary. I developed even thicker skin when I realised how ignorant people are and that they just don’t get it, and that we still have to break down stigma and phobias. I have really supportive people in my life that were there throughout whole experience, who have faced the same or similar discrimination, and we were saying ‘how do we end it? How do we stop it?’ It’s a process of communication and conversation, so we can all understand why it matters to be more appropriate and inclusive and diverse. I think really identifying the impact words can have, and how words might make someone feel is key. As a young person I was all set with my cultural identity, but had to learn to sit in my sexual identity. Now, I don’t feel negative about using the label bisexual, but I would rather walk up to someone and say ‘hi, I’m Brooke, I’m a proud Yamatji and Noongar woman’, than categorise myself by who I’m sleeping with. I mean, it’s an evolution, and we have made such brilliant progress, but there’s still change needed.
I have been working with Garnier for three years, and I love everything about them, like their focus on inclusivity and also how environmentally-friendly they are. I was so excited to work with Oral-B, because they wanted to integrate my story with uplifting indigenous communities, and supporting events like Mardi Gras.
Saying yes to these relationships has to be a decision that aligns with my morals and values. Oral hygiene was not a strong focus for me growing up, and it wasn’t easy to access. I have come a long way on my own journey with it, and now my family get to say ‘we saw your TV ad!’ To see a young Aboriginal woman doing an Oral-B commercial… for me, that’s momentous. It’s saying to young Aboriginal kids, you can do this. It’s accessible to you, and what you can do at home can give similar results and benefits to the experience of going to a dentist (like using the 3D White Lasting White Enamel Strong Toothpaste, which I love). This sort of change starts at home, and I have seen how much it has rubbed off on my brothers, and then externally into our community. I gave them my spiel, and now they religiously are doing what they need to do. And not to flex, but some friends of mine went and bought the Oral-B Smart 5 5000 White Electric Toothbrush because of me, and then they left me in the dust. They all had the app, which I didn’t even have, and they’re sitting at dinner comparing the medallions it gives you for different elements of your teeth care and I was completely left out. I was just desperate to get the app; I believe the terminology is ‘influenced’, haha! It was definitely a full circle moment.
I never really invested in good skincare until I knew what it could do. For the last four years, I have religiously used Aspect skincare. I will add in other products to try, but theirs are the backbone of my routine. I swear by their Probiotic Mask, which I put on every night as my final step and then sleep in it.
At the moment I am really enjoying the Garnier Vitamin C Brightening Serum. It’s meant to be good for pigmentation, but more importantly I just like using it – I don’t get any irritation, and my skin soaks it up like a sponge. Some other favourites are the Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Liquid Rehydration Serum and the new Laneige Water Bank Blue HA range.
I was a tomboy growing up, but I was always into beauty products, and used to get into mum’s makeup. I remember the first time I ever came across foundation was a Maybelline matte mousse one. When Mum used to wear it didn’t quite match her skin colour, as we just didn’t have the range of shades back then that we do now, and I didn’t understand then how layered with meaning that was.
Now, I try to avoid wearing makeup on days I don’t need to. My bare minimum look is usually good skincare, BB cream and SPF is phenomenal. For a person who is always outside and has been their whole lives, I am so lucky my nan preached the importance of sunscreen to us. She had a couple of melanomas and because we all spent so much time on the bluff surfing, bodyboarding and snorkelling, she drilled it into us that we had to protect ourselves. Honestly, I could be better with my application of it now as an adult. I do try to make sure I have it on under makeup, and then use makeup with SPF in it on top for extra protection. It even makes the texture of your skin look and feel better, if you find the right one.
I usually tend to go more bougie with mascaras, for some reason, but this time I went more drug store and I was blown away. Just try it. I was using Too Faced Better Than Sex before that, but this is better.
Right now, I am really loving a chocolate liner. I have quite almond-shaped eyes, and this helps me to exaggerate that a bit more. It’s sort of giving, ‘I tried, but didn’t try too hard’, and makes me look and feel like I put in a little bit of effort.
Seizing these recent media opportunities has taken me away from my full-time youth work. That work was in government, and it’s a bit difficult to do that sort of job when you also have a social media platform. (Their policies and systems are conservative, without a lot of room for doing things outside the box, and social media is seen as outside the box.) My focus this year is getting the book done. We are going to print in July, and then it will be out in October. ‘Author’ is a very exciting title to have! Then on the side, I am doing all the things I love. Social media and working with brands is part of that, as is presenting, being a part of panel discussions on inclusivity or diversity, or talking about representation. I always put my hand up for that. Now that Bachie is over and soon the memoir will be done, I will be readjusting and reassessing for what’s next. I started doing some background work for a youth mentoring business just prior to Bachie, and will hopefully have that ready to go next year. The focus will be on social and emotional wellbeing, specifically with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls, but I am also keeping it broad enough so we can hopefully be of help to anyone who wants it.”